Motherly Wisdom

Mothers’ Day is once again upon us.  In honor of my strong and lovely mother, and all the mothers out there who have shaped our lives with their wisdom, love, and guidance, I’d like to reflect on the most valuable lesson my mother taught me, and do my best to pass that lesson on to my own gorgeous, brilliant daughter.

 Dearest Daughter,

            So it’s eight A.M, and you really want to sleep a few more hours. Tough shit. Working grown-ups are out of bed and on their way to work by now. So you’ve had a hard time concentrating through a dull lecture, and now you have an assignment that’s due next week. You’d really rather hit Facebook, and then go hang out with some friends this evening. Tough shit. You need to get started on that assignment right now, while the instructions and information are still clear in your mind. Suck it up. Woman up. Put on your big girl panties, drink a cup of coffee, and get to work. You’ll feel so much better afterward, and you’ll have truly earned a little free time – just a little, and probably far less than you’d like.

This is a lesson I learned from my own dear Mom, and I want to once again thank her for this priceless wisdom. When my sister and I were little (brother came along later), we would whine, complain, mutter and groan when asked/told to take care of our responsibilities around the house: vacuuming, dusting, setting the table, and – especially – stripping the dirty sheets off our beds on Saturday morning. I mean, Saturday morning was that special, golden time when children were meant to watch cartoons, eat sugary cereal, and then spend the rest of the day outside playing with friends, right? Oh, how bitterly we complained. But did Mom get upset? Did she yell? Did she take our grumbling personally? Not at all. She merely reminded us that the work had to be done before we could go out to have fun, and if it was not done my X o’clock, we’d face a punishment. Thanks so much, Mom! Because what she was teaching us was reality – the work must be done, period. Why waste emotion protesting about the basic, grubby chores of daily existence? Why not just pitch in, get the work done, and then go play?

I don’t think I consciously digested this lesson until my twenties or thirties, but this frame of mind fueled my successes in my younger years, and continues to do so today. Is it fun to get up every morning earlier than I’d like to, stumble through the same old routine of shower, dress, eat, gather work things and drive off in the dark? No – it’s not fun, and sometimes it gets me down. Tough shit. When I put on my big girl panties and remember how lucky I am to have a job, live in a nice house with a lovely bathroom in which to do the same old morning ablutions, have plenty of food, plenty of money to pay for fuel, shelter, and medical care, and plenty of free time after work to play – then I realize how fortunate I am, and I stop grumbling and get to work doing what I have to do. In fact, when I start to sag during a necessary task, I say aloud, “You can do this. Keep it up. Keep moving.” OK, I might seem a bit nuts to an observer, but I need the reminder. You see, dear daughter, that feeling of wanting to take a break and just relax doesn’t go away, but that’s the voice of a spoiled little child. I give her a pat on the head, say “Tough shit, dear,” and move on with what I have to do.

            You can do that too – in fact, you must. We all must. Life is full of grubby, un-fun work that must be done. You have to do your chores before you can go out and play. If you chose not to do your chores by the deadline, you’ll face a punishment. Tough shit.

 (P.S. My mom never used such language when we were little, and does not today. She did not succeed in teaching me that sort of class. Sorry, Mom.)

 (P.S. #2: I’m extraordinarily proud of the way my daughter is putting this lesson into practice lately. She’s going through a tough period and a major transition, but she’s wearing those big-girl panties and showing us all what perseverance looks like. With guts like that, you’ll go far, baby!)


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